Macbeth

In Our Time | 1 October 2020 | 0h 51m | Listen Later | iTunes
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Shakespeare’s Macbeth. When three witches prophesy that Macbeth will be king one day, he is not prepared to wait and almost the next day murders King Duncan as he sleeps, a guest at Macbeth’s castle. Discusses their brutal world where few boundaries are distinct – between safe and unsafe, friend and foe, real and unreal, man and beast – until Macbeth too is slaughtered.

Pericles

In Our Time | 17 September 2020 | 0h 48m | Listen Later | iTunes
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Pericles (495–429BC), the statesman who dominated the politics of Athens for thirty years, the so-called Age of Pericles, when the city’s cultural life flowered, its democracy strengthened as its empire grew, and the Acropolis was adorned with the Parthenon. In 431 BC he gave a funeral oration for those Athenians who had already died in the new war with Sparta which has been celebrated as one of the greatest speeches of all time, yet within two years he was dead from a plague made worse by Athenians crowding into their city to avoid attacks. Thucydides, the historian, knew him and was in awe of him, yet few shared that view until the nineteenth century, when they found much in Pericles to praise, an example for the Victorian age.

Bird Migration

In Our Time | 18 June 2020 | 0h 52m | Listen Later | iTunes
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss bird migration: why birds migrate; how they select their destinations; how they navigate using their senses of sight and smell, and magnetic fields; and the history of our developing understanding of bird migration. Also covers why some birds scatter and some flock together, how much is instinctive versus learned, and weighs the benefits of migrating against the risks.

The Evolution of Horses

In Our Time | 27 February 2020 | 0h 50m | Listen Later | iTunes
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the evolution of horses, from their dog-sized ancestors to their proliferation in the New World until hunted to extinction, their domestication in Asia and their development since.

Battle of the Teutoburg Forest

In Our Time | 13 February 2020 | 0h 51m | Listen Later | iTunes
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the great Roman military disaster of 9 AD when Germanic tribes under Arminius ambushed and destroyed three legions under Varus. The defeat ended Roman expansion east of the Rhine. Victory changed the development of the Germanic peoples, both in the centuries that followed and in the nineteenth century when Arminius, by then known as Herman, became a rallying point for German nationalism.

Japan’s Sakoku Period

In Our Time | 4 April 2013 | 0h 42m | Listen Later | iTunes
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Japan’s Sakoku period, two centuries when the country deliberately isolated itself from the Western world. Sakoku began with a series of edicts in the 1630s which restricted the rights of Japanese to leave their country and expelled most of the Europeans living there. For the next two hundred years, Dutch traders were the only Westerners free to live in Japan. It was not until 1858 and the gunboat diplomacy of the American Commodore Matthew Perry that Japan’s international isolation finally ended. Although historians used to think of Japan as completely isolated from external influence during this period, recent scholarship suggests that Japanese society was far less isolated from European ideas during this period than previously thought.

The Siege of Paris 1870–71

In Our Time | 16 January 2020 | 0h 52m | Listen Later | iTunes
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the siege of Paris during the Franco-Prussian war and the social unrest that followed, as the French capital was cut off from the rest of the country and food was scarce. When the French government surrendered Paris to the Prussians, power gravitated to the National Guard in the city and to radical socialists, and a Commune established in March 1871 with the red flag replacing the trilcoleur. The French government sent in the army and, after bloody fighting, the Communards were defeated by the end of May 1871.

Coffee

In Our Time | 12 December 2019 | 0h 55m | Listen Later | iTunes
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the history and social impact of coffee. Covers its origins in Ethiopia, spread through the Ottoman Empire, introduction to European coffee houses, spread with colonial trade, and its modern economy.